From Netflix show 13 Reasons Whythat looks at teen mental health in the 21st century, to Lloyds Bank CEO António Horta-Osório sharing his own encounters with stress publicly, and the announcement of the Duke of Cambridge’s workplace mental health initiative, mental health and wellbeing has undoubtedly risen up the agenda in the last twelve months. As the Founding Partner of FUTR Group (formerly Millennial 20/20), my mission is to not only keep up with, but to stay ahead of both social and commercial industry trends and I have found the topic of mental health and wellbeing increasingly at the forefront of conversation. 

However, it’s clear that the conversation has only really just begun and we have only grazed the surface of what needs to be done, especially within the workplace.

I believe that mental health in the workplace has traditionally been approached by reactive management rather than proactive initiative. Research shows that there is not only a huge human cost of poor mental health at work, tackling stigma can make a real difference to sickness absence rates, presenteeism levels, staff wellbeing, productivity and retention. 

Analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested (1) whilst the economic cost of mental health problems in the UK estimated at roughly £105 billion per year (2)

Some of the statistics of this epidemic are truly alarming. Anxiety, depression and stress has been proven to affect 1 in 4 British workers each year (3) and been the reason for half of all long-term sick leave in the UK (4). And it is not just that they are affected by it, the fact that they don’t want to share it is even more concerning with 95% of employees calling in sick with stress giving a different reason (5) and 9 out of 10 people saying they wouldn’t tell people at work even if they were experiencing problems with their mental health (6).

It is clear that there is still much to do to eradicate the stigma around mental health and foster a more nurturing workplace environment. Through a recent survey that we conducted at Mad World to ensure our 2018 conference programme delivers what the industry needs most, we discovered that organisations are keen to understand how to get started as well as how to make the business case for mental health in the workplace with almost 60% highlighting the need to learn about engagement strategies that work for a multigenerational workplace. Read more results from the survey here.

What are some of the strategies that companies can engage in to increase focus on wellbeing and eradicate the stigma of mental health in the workplace? Here are some of the examples that have recently caught my attention:

Tell me more… Education and awareness of mental health issues for employees is key. When Lloyd’s chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio found himself spending nine days at the Priory clinic to prevent a nervous breakdown, he wanted to ensure that his company had more understanding and awareness. He has since put plans in place to put his senior leadership through a bespoke programme he has compiled with the psychiatrist who helped him, Dr Stephen Pereira. Around 200 executives will now have access to the measures that helped him spanning nutrition analysis, mindfulness, and psychological testing.

The UK’s largest independent provider of risk control services to the insurance sector RiskSTOP recently provided formal training via a course delivered by Mental Health First Aid England. The course was delivered to 65 of its employees on how to recognise and deal with mental health issues, as well how to challenge the stigma surrounding it.

You’re not alone… The more knowledge employees can have about mental health, the easier it will be to identify, relate to or empathise with colleagues that are experiencing mental health issues. In 2014, Accenture introduced its Mental Health Allies Programme where employees who want to be part of it, can attend an interactive training workshop co-developed with mental health charity Mind. Once completed, they receive a lanyard so they can be easily identified as trusted advocates around the workplace by colleagues facing mental health challenges. 

“We’ve recently trained our 1,000th ally, which means they have a significant presence in the organisation,” says Tony Horan, head of human capital and diversity at Accenture UK and Ireland. “This really helps to normalise conversations around mental health and promote a culture of openness that supports employee wellbeing.” Many organisations also offer Employee Assisted Programmes and counselling services, as provided by companies such as HealthShield, to enable their employees to speak confidentially and externally with experts.

Reduce my stress Many of you may have heard of or seen the fuse ball tables, pop-up nail salons and free food cafes that grace many a Google office but in addition to this, Google has also taken additional steps in offering employees ways to reduce stress whilst at work. They offer specific classes to employees such as Meditation 101, Search Inside Yourself, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The company also has created a both virtual and in-person community called gPause to help support and encourage meditation practice, including features like daily in-person meditation sits at more than 35 offices, what the company calls “mindful eating meals,” and day meditation retreats at a handful of locations. Other interesting initiatives include Nuffield Health’s Space to Thrive programme, which addresses sources of stress, as well as giving tips on how to cope and ways to build wellbeing and resilience into the future.

Thank God It’s Monday 🙂 Social Chain, the social media agency best known for its ability to make something top Twitter’s Trending list in under 30 minutes, believes that there is a strong need to create a work environment where freedom can exist and flourish whilst helping employees ease the burdens that come with everyday work. In addition to perks such as unlimited holiday allowance, Kiera Lawlor, Director of Happiness at Social Chain, encourages celebrating all staff achievements, both personal and professional, no matter how big or small. Other important aspects of her job include organising group activities, arranging classes on valuable life skills and creating welcoming spaces that encourage creativity.

Are you listening to me? “The cheapest, most effective way to help stress is simply listening to staff,” says Appster co-Founder Mark McDonald. “It doesn’t really cost us except for a little bit of time, but the impact on morale is really big.” Amongst various activities including monthly town halls and a weekly anonymous vent report, Appster also prioritises monthly one-on-one check-in meetings for all its 440 employees so that they are given a chance to talk about their career, and any concerns they might be having on the job regularly.

Whilst there are many companies making great strides to create a strong wellbeing culture and to remove the stigma around mental health in the workplace, there is still much more work ahead for us all and as in any industry that is going through extreme change, through the sharing of more case studies and successful engagement strategies, we will be able to co-create the future standard for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Mad World Summit is Europe’s only solutions-focused conference and exhibition with a clear mission: to eradicate stigma and spark a new era of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The Summit will take place on 9th October in London. If you would like to be a part of the conversation and join us for this much-needed summit, please feel free to use the code 25OFF here for 25% off your delegate passes until the end of May 2018.

Rupa Ganatra

Rupa is an entrepreneur, investor and advisor, passionate about the future of consumer brands, marketing, retail, technology and commerce. She is the Founding Partner of FUTR Group (formerly Millennial 20/20), the global summit series and insights platform on the future of retail, marketing and commerce that brings together 3,000+ brands, retailers, solution providers, investors, media and start-ups in New York, London, Singapore and Sydney. 

Originally published at